The Nankang Towers condominium complex brings laid-back Southern California living to Taipei, with open kitchens designed for entertaining and terraces that provide a strong indoor/outdoor connection. Ehrlich Architects collaborated closely with the Taipei-based architectural firm to achieve the breezy, light-filled design.

“We were surprised to see how receptive people there were to this concept, but at the same time there was a learning curve and a lot of back and forth,” explains Takashi Yanai, Ehrlich Architects’ design principal-in-charge. For example, he modified the American-style kitchens with a closed, vented area for wok cooking, which is popular in the region.

The two 16-story structures employ tested, traditional materials such as tile, granite, and glass in new ways. Yanai speced terra-cotta and white self-cleaning tile in a combination of colors and orientations to create a textural look on the exterior. He also incorporated sunscreen elements, photovoltaics, and discreet glimpses of the concrete beam structure itself as architectural features.

The judges appreciated his approach. “I like that instead of being apologetic about being big, the building embraces its verticality and has good proportions and color used in a way that give it good scale,” said one judge. “The different materials and planes lead to a more vibrant exterior.”

The most striking elements of the project, two glass-enclosed rooftop mechanical towers, house the structure’s water tanks because city water pressure is inadequate to service high-rise buildings. The architect chose to clad the towers in translucent glass that runs down through the buildings’ vertical circulation core. The glass is backlit at night, which creates a lantern effect, Yanai says.

Taipei residents have embraced the project—all units sold quickly for some of the highest prices in the city and two additional 25-story towers are under construction to meet demand.

“It should be noted that we were blessed to have a wonderfully enlightened client who recognized the value of having a foreign architect come in to collaborate with them,” Yanai says. “The project evolved in leaps and bounds through this kind of cultural exchange and discussion.”

On Site Transforming a structural component into a compositional one as well, architect Takashi Yanai exposed the buildings’ concrete beam structure in a handful of places instead of keeping it hidden behind finishes. “We think the results are subtle and sophisticated and not overly self-conscious—just enough to set our buildings apart from the neighbors,” he says.